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Closing Time: Julio Teheran’s house of mirrors (but where’s the smoke?)

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Talk of the Town (USAT)

Normally when a former top prospect gets off to a tidy 1.80/1.00 start on the mound, everyone sits back, relaxes, enjoys the ride. But we're seeing an interesting divergence of opinion on Julio Teheran.

Teheran's latest start was a seven-inning dandy against the Marlins on Monday (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8). He had to settle a no-decision when Craig Kimbrel struggled in the ninth, but nonetheless this was a fun, useful line for all formats. We could be upon the stardom campaign the scouting hounds have been waiting for – Teheran was a Top 5 prospect on pretty much everyone's clipboard back in 2011-2012.

Alas, there are chinks in the armor when you look under the hood. Teheran's fastball velocity is down thus far in 2014 (it's anywhere from a 1.5 mph drop to a 0.8 mph drop, depending on where you get your radar love), and his secondary numbers (.240 BABIP, just 5.4 K/9, 7.1 HR/FB) don't fully support the 1.80 ERA. Most of the ERA estimators say Teheran should have a number in the high 3s or low 4s right now; the projection system Pecota calls for a 4.17 ERA (whoa, Nelly) the rest of the way.

While I respect the argument for rotoheads shopping Teheran now (my buddy Mike Salfino makes an interesting case in his weekly column), I'm going to hold my Teheran shares unless I get an offer that knocks me over. It's not unusual for pitchers to have a little velocity drop in April. Teheran's swinging strike number is the same as it was during last year's breakthrough (3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP). You want to see more strikeouts, sure, but he just whiffed eight against a surprisingly-productive Marlins offense, and he's getting three whiffs for every walk. Last year's out-the-door ratios are where I'd start my Teheran projection right, and he'll no doubt be a Top 25-30 arm (perhaps higher) when I construct the starting pitcher Shuffle Up later this week.

Mind you, this is not the time I'd trade for Teheran – I don't want to trade for any pitcher who's currently carrying an outlier ERA (on the low side). The other owner is going to expect the moon. If you covet any pitcher, wait until he gets hit once or twice – and they all get hit. You want to play the timing game. Mash it all together and I'm saying "hold."

You break the tie, gamers. In your eyes, is Teheran a buy, a sell or a hold? Does the radar gun scare you?

• Craig Kimbrel has only pitched twice in the last nine days (dealing with a sore shoulder), and neither appearance went well. He needed a bailout in Saturday's win over New York (two runs, four baserunners) and the Marlins nicked him for an unearned run Monday (helped by Evan Gattis's ill-timed catcher interference). On the plus side, Kimbrel picked up three strikeouts against Miami and the Braves won an inning later (with Gattis the hero). But I suppose we need a contingency plan if Kimbrel's shoulder starts barking again.

Jordan Walden is emerging as a poor man's Kimbrel: elite strikeout rate, occasional control problems (7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 12 K). He cleaned up Saturday's mess and got out of his own trouble Monday (1 H, 1 BB, 0 R), working the eighth in front of Kimbrel. If you need to hedge the Atlanta situation, Walden looks like the man to add. He's unclaimed in 97 percent of Yahoo.

Esteemed colleague Andy Behrens did an audit of Jean Segura's situation Monday, worth a read as always. And let's consider the other side of Segura's lineup demotion: Scooter Gennett gets an audition in the No. 2 slot. Gennett's production stats haven't been much through 19 games, though he's carrying a .321 average and .357 OBP. You could see the Brew Crew keeping him near the top of the order for a while. Gennett posted a 3-1-2-1 line Monday, with a triple, and the surging Brewers secured another victory.

Gennett's 2013 emergence was overshadowed by Segura's terrific season, but there's nothing wrong with a .324-29-6-21-2 line through 69 games (remember, he's a middle infielder). And there's the possibility for more steals on the way, as Gennett swiped 46 bags in 464 minor-league games. This is no superstar, but Gennett should be owned in more than three percent of Yahoo leagues.

Behrens, incidentally, made the Gennett addition in the Yahoo F&F League. And Gennett was one of my recent purchases in Tout Wars-Mixed (15 teams). If you want a spot on the bus, we'll be sitting next to you.

• Travis Wood is another name for the hold folder – maybe he's a forced hold more than anything else. It's unlikely you'll find anyone wanting to pay the freight for his terrific April.

The Regression Police had a long laugh at Wood's 3.11 ERA from last year, but no one's laughing now (2.52 ERA, 4 BB, 28 K). He struck out nine Diamondbacks in Monday's cruise, tying a career high (he also smacked the ball all over the park, not that we get anything from it). That K/BB rate is going to defend anyone, and Wood's also pushed his ground-ball rate up to 43.4 percent. Even when Wood's strikeout clip eventually tumbles (he's at 10.1 now, against a 6.9 mark for his career), I still expect an ERA in the mid-3s. This is a useful mixed-league starter, even when the schedule gets tougher (the Brewers and Cardinals come calling next). Keep spinning it, lefty.

Speed Round: Two more homers (and a walk) for Charlie Blackmon, sweet music in Colorado. Michael Cuddyer also went on the disabled list, opening room for Corey Dickerson. If you lower the qualification to 330 plate appearances, Blackmon has the NL's highest batting average from the beginning of 2013 to now. This is a definite hold in my book; if I were doing a shuffle this moment, he'd be in the $14-16 range . . . Jenrry Mejia had the slider biting against St. Louis (6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K), picking up his third win. Hopefully he's over the blister problems. He hosts the Marlins on the weekend . . . Christian Yelich keeps doing his thing: .336 average, four steals, 15 runs. The crazy hit rate shouldn't worry you much - obviously he has plus speed, and he's making a lot of his own luck (29.1 percent line drive rate) . . . Matt Lindstrom escaped with a save in Detroit, dodging two baserunners. It's never an easy watch . . . Brad Miller dropped to the ninth spot in the order and took the collar against Houston. Dustin Ackley (.290 OBP) batted second . . . David Robertson is back off the DL . . . Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment on the weekend . . . Devin Mesoraco apparently isn't perfect: he made one out, was caught stealing, and missed the ball on the game-ending play at Pittsburgh. Other than that, there's a 20-for-37 barrage to enjoy (three homers, six doubles). He's got a good chance to be a Top 12 catcher in our fake baseball game.

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